Wow, talk about turning a drama into a crisis. Nothing could be more “ho hum” than a veteran jumper running a poor race on the first run back from a summer break in a race that hardly matters, so I thought defeat for Apple’s Jade at Navan on Sunday would be readily brushed off by connections, but instead there were hints that she might be nearing the end of her stellar career.
“She’s been busy since she was a three-year-old,” said her trainer, Gordon Elliott, mulling over the meaning of the outcome after the Lismullen Hurdle. “We’ll talk to Michael and Eddie [O’Leary, owners] and she doesn’t owe us anything. She’s been a horse of a lifetime.”
It was certainly a disappointing outcome in a race Apple’s Jade has won tidily for the last two years. She was, after all, sent off at odds of 1-4, the shortest starting price she’s had in 24 starts. Victory was widely seen as a formality.
But in the end, she was beaten only by Bacardys, a classy rival and thorough stayer from the Willie Mullins yard. It seemed to me that Apple’s Jade was a bit fresh at times during the race, including going down the back straight, and she was pressed at various stages by the Grand National runner-up Magic Of Light.
Could it be that that rival softened her up and, after Apple’s Jade had seen her off, she had nothing left for the fight with Bacardys? It strikes me as a plausible excuse for a horse that hadn’t run for nine months. And of course it can’t have helped that her regular rider, Jack Kennedy, was unavailable because of his broken collar bone.
The Racing Post’s analyst rejects my complacency. He describes Apple’s Jade as looking “very lethargic” and the outcome as “very worrying”.
But she has been disappointing before and bounced back, and I’ll be interested to see her odds for the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse on Sunday 1 December. Mere mention of that Grade One, which she has won for the last three years, was enough to brighten Elliott’s countenance. Asked if he would still aim her there, he replied: “Oh, definitely. One hundred per cent.”
I’m betting we’ll see a more polished Apple’s Jade that day.
Monday’s best bets
I fancied Commandant (2.05) when he had his first run for Chris Gordon at Huntingdon last month and was a bit annoyed that he set a much stronger pace than was really necessary. He finished tired but still did well to be third of 13.
There’s a race in him off his current rating and, at 10-1, I’ll take a chance on it being today at Kempton, although this is a stronger contest than the last one. It’s a shorter trip and Kempton’s well-drained surface will help. Tom Cannon rides him for the first time and Commandant can run well above his odds if the pair of them get the fractions right.
There’s still some 2-1 around for The King’s Baby (3.15) in the handicap chase for mares, after she opened at 7-2. Harry Whittington’s runner was really getting the hang of fences in the spring, when she won twice, and she made a fair reappearance over hurdles last month.
Sharper for that and with Richard Johnson aboard for the first time, she can get the better of Definitelyanoscar, having her second run over fences.
Earlier, the 9-4 is fair about Celtic Joy (12.55), another who has improved for the switch to fences. From the Emma Lavelle yard that had a notable Wincanton winner on Saturday, he scored here last month and should be helped by the extra distance.